Nonzero

ISBN: 0349113343
ISBN 13: 9780349113340
By: Robert Wright

Check Price Now

Genres

Currently Reading Evolution Favorites History Non Fiction Nonfiction Philosophy Science Sociology To Read

About this book

Robert Wright challenges the conventional view that biological evolution and human history are aimless. Employing game theory - the logic of zero-sum and nonzero-sum games - he isolates the impetus behind life's basic direction: the impetus that, via biological evolution, created complex, intelligent animals, and then via cultural evolution, pushed the human species towards deeper and vaster social complexity. In this view, the coming of today's independent global society was on the cards - not quite inevitable, but, as Wright puts it, so probable as to inspire wonder.

Reader's Thoughts

Warren B

I actually loved the theory put forth about a non-zero-sum world in which humanity continually moves toward a more peaceful and unified existence as we grow larger and more complex. I even very much agree with many of assertions and predictions; however, for a book to purport to be scientific in its conclusions there is way too much soft science here, and many of Mr. Wright's conclusions seem to come by way of intuition and historical cherry picking. Even with that said I did actually enjoy this book. It's full of enticing ideas and some great sources are referenced in some places (i.e Telihard de Chardin ect.). The book presents a very positive and optimistic view for the world moving forward and I hope that Wright's "gut" is right on, but the book is presented as an anthropological study in game theory, and for that it misses very wide of the mark.

Jack

Wright writes a book that turns out to be about what one would expect from a non-academic writing on a huge metaphysical question with the soaring ambition of an articulate journalist. Wright's thesis is self-consciously modest in scope; he argues for the directionality of biological and cultural evolution towards greater complexity and non-zero-sum character. Wright however, seems undecided on how far he wants to take this argument. On the one hand he constantly reminds the reader that he does not support mystical claims of a higher purpose, but on the other hand he almost bashful defends these claims as "not crazy." Wrights approach entails devoting the bulk of the book to a whirlwind account of human cultural history putting special emphasis on examples of cooperative behavior progressive emerging and evolving independently in many civilizations. Although he does not go into enough detail to make an academically satisfying argument for the overall trend (he does after all, uses anecdotal evidence very selectively) this part of the book is the strongest. If you find well-presented and well-packaged anecdotal evidence persuasive (a la Gladwell) you will enjoy this book. However, for me, Wright's claims are neither original nor for the most part significant. Many logical links he makes are rather obvious (cooperation is biologically favored, hence evolution towards greater non-zero sum activity, isn't this something you learn in high school biology?). Wright also eventually wanders into the treacherous realm of morality in the last few chapters. While perhaps the venture into the moral realm had the greatest potential for a book on the meaning of life, Wright makes a half-hearted (and ultimately unfruitful) attempt at it. The lack of a rigorous framework for what constitutes moral or ethical progress doesn't help. There also seems to be an abrupt disconnect between his last few chapters on the morality of cultural progress from his primarily materialist reading of increasing non-zero sum interactions in human society. Additionally, Wright also skirts the issue of a possible human societal singularity (a highly integrated societal organism) as the inevitable product of cultural evolution. He argues for this through a watered down definition of what constitutes an organism, focusing on the ability of organisms to process information. This however strikes me as a fallacy, especially given that he defined information processing and intelligence earlier based on resulting behavior. Through this circular logic, if you see a correlation between behavior and stimuli, you can claim information and processing, and in turn some kind of ultimate teleogical purpose. Applying this logic to Wright's own example, it seems that a river does indeed have the "purpose" of flowing downstream in some deep metaphysically meaningful sense. Overall, I found that the book offered some interesting thoughts, but was for the most part unoriginal and not very deep.

Jeremy

The author was very confusing at times, but in general I felt he provided insight as to how the planet has evolved in terms of global economics and culture. I feel a little bit better about capatilism after reading this as a different view is presented. If I go with Wright's standpoint then it is either capitalism or a totalitarian government. He also makes me think differently on how war has affected our society. This book was well worth reading, although I found myself hurrying to get through with it.

Tom

2 1/2 stars. Wright does provide here a unique and compelling view of history. Societies seem to be growing more and more complex throughout history with increasing "non-zero-sumness." But is this a law or just a historical trend that has occurred? I think that Wright does make a great (though not entirely solid) case for showing that it has been a trend, but I feel like he wants to show more than that. He says something like this increasing complexity and "non-zero-sumness" was in the cards, or highly likely, ever since life began. But how likely or unlikely was it? How could something like that ever be quantified? He wants to provide some sort of stochastic law-like thesis, but giving any actual probabilities seem to be, in principle, impossible. Nevertheless, he still has to account for the continued existence of hunter/gatherer tribes around the world, providing an explanation regarding their apparent lack of increasing complexity. I don't recall him ever mentioning or trying to deal with such an apparent anomaly. That isn't, of course, to say that such tribes necessarily refute his thesis, but I found it irksome that he didn't feel the need to make any sort of stab at their reason for such seeming stagnation in the face of his idea of increasing complexity.The last section of the book, furthermore, turns into a bunch of half-baked mystical speculations regarding divinity, meaning, and human societal super-organisms. Probably worth just skipping over this last part if someone must read this work.I'm not sure I would recommend Wright's project here. In fact, I probably wouldn't--he's on much stronger ground arguing for increasing complexity in biological rather than cultural evolution, and his historicism seems, like most (all?) historicism, to be irrefutable.

Kyle

This book blew me away. While highly ambitious and overreaching at times, Wright's take on biological and human cultural evolution gives plenty of room for the reader's mind to wander through the minutiae of what he's explaining and reach his/her own conclusions. Further extrapolation of his central thesis - that non-zero sum outcomes are the impetus behind most forms of evolution, and that communication and trust underscore the propensity for these outcomes - that he undertakes, as well as can be applied by the reader, made this book exciting and and interesting to me.

Ed

This is another of those rare non-fiction "I couldn't put it down" books. Using Game Theory, Wright develops a theory of Cultural Evolution that gives rise to optimism, while not ignoring those things that could go wrong. However, if history is any guide, the increasing complexity of human culture has always moved Homo Sapiens closer and closer to a culture of mutual collaboration and reciprocal altruism to the point that we might look forward to a global culture that would make war even more of a zero-sum game than it is now. We are talking win-win versus total lose-lose here.Though written before 9/11, he does see the potential of just such a terrorist act. He also points out in the Introduction, "The Storm Before the Calm" that we live in chaotic times as have many before us and that the chaos has always, in recorded history, been followed by a period of increased complexity and relative prosperity and happiness. The first two-thirds of the book, which I found the most interesting, traces human history in such a way that it is clear that non-zero-sumness (his made up word for mutual gain) has always led to greater ends than existed before. He does this with a delightful sense of humor and shows how some of the givens, we learned in school, are false truths. One of my favorites is the chapter titled "Our Friends the Barbarians".He also, in much less detail, looks at organic evolution as a process of greater and greater complexity supporting his contention that culture has also moved to greater complexity and that both of these processes are natural and positive.The last section contains a philosophical discussion that raises what he calls "Non-Crazy Questions" like: "Is the human race an organism?" He also discusses the idea of God but not as an anthropomorphic being made in our image but as a force that created and maintains Darwinian Natural Selection as a guiding rule of existence.All of this heavy duty stuff is presented in such a light-handed and light-hearted manner that it makes these ideas accessible even to a non-scientific mind like mine. Yet, in no way does he trivialize the important issues he is raising.I would recommend this book to anyone who is struggling with trying to make sense of what is going on in the world now. I would also recommend it to those who think they have all the "right" answers but only if they can come with an open mind.

Miles

This book came to my attention by way of David Brin, who claims it as mandatory reading for anyone interested in saving the world. I’m not sure if I’d go that far, but the assertion that positive sum games play a critical role in biological and cultural evolution is definitely significant, especially insofar as it carves out a space for balance between competition and cooperation in discussions about evolutionary development. If pointing out this interesting facet of natural selection were Wright’s only goal, he might have written a better book. Unfortunately, Wright insists that positive sum games reveal not only that nature proceeds in a certain direction (plausible), but also that such directionality, enabled and amplified by positive sum relationships, imbues human life with meaning and purpose (problematic). The result is a blend of brilliance and atavism; Wright’s insightful, progressive vision is ultimately dampened by his adherence to one of humanity’s oldest misconceptions: purpose and meaning are properties of the universe itself, rather than features of experiential narratives generated by the human body.This book is a predecessor to Ted Chu’s Human Purpose and Transhuman Potential, which also makes the case that evolution is both directional and demonstrative of the universe’s inherent meaningfulness. Chu’s book is more thorough, far-reaching, and contemporary (it was published 15 years after Nonzero), but he essentially takes the baton from Wright without significantly altering the message. Additionally, both thinkers insist on clinging to notions of divinity that are almost entirely incompatible with their scientific worldviews.Let’s begin with Wright’s least controversial claim: evolution gives nature a direction, with biological (and cultural) systems tending to become more complex and interconnected over time. This directionality flows from the second law of thermodynamics (entropy), which dictates that energy systems always tend toward equilibrium, a state of chemical inertness where no life can thrive. In the grand scale of things, entropy can never be overcome, but organisms can stave off its effects through efficient organization of matter and nutrients. The more complex, efficient, and adaptable the organism, the longer it can survive. Over time, simple organisms group together in adaptive, mutually beneficial arrangements that extend the lifespan of all constituents––hence the progression from unicellular organisms to increasingly robust multicellular life.Wright effectively argues that this pattern is descriptive not just of organic evolution, but also of human cultural evolution. History demonstrates that positive sum relationships between human groups ultimately outlast bellicose tribalism and subjugation. That doesn’t mean myriad zero-sum games are not brutally playing themselves out at any given point in history (they always are), but it does mean that, over time, civilization favors win-win arrangements over zero-sum games. There are numerous historical examples that, when taken in isolation, seem to contradict this point of view, but I’m willing to agree with Wright and others (such as Steven Pinker) that progress is real and the world truly has become safer––even better––in recent epochs (at least for humans).So, great, let’s give ourselves a big pat on the back and return to the project of trying to solve existing problems, which are multifarious and demand further adaptation, moral imagination, and a commitment to rooting out and bolstering as many positive sum relationships as possible. The problem with the nonzero approach, as I see it, is that it’s both easy and common for two or more parties to arrange a positive sum game in which everyone involved benefits but others do not. When an American company outsources jobs overseas, it’s win-win for the business owners and third-world workers who get access to better jobs and wages, but American middle class workers are left in the lurch. When Uber enables independent drivers and smartphone users to connect at unprecedented speeds for a competitive price, cab drivers who’ve spent many years and dollars getting licensed lose business.There are plenty of examples of how certain nonzero relationships can be seen as zero-sum if you’re the person getting the fuzzy end of the lollypop. Wright’s answer to this problem is practical and level-headed: since the driving forces behind globalization are so powerful, we shouldn’t buy the argument that regulating new technologies will stifle innovation or destroy markets. We can’t stop technological progress, but we can slow it down at times in order to minimize its most detrimental effects. Revenue will still flow, tinkerers will still tinker, and the next killer app will still get made if we make rules about how quickly or in what fashion companies and governments can exercise their considerable power to put people out of work and/or cut off social services. In fact, helping populations through times of transition is the best way of allowing progress to continue: “The only thing with much chance of stalling globalization for any length of time is the very chaotic backlash––from the angry and disgruntled––that a slight slowdown might avert” (234). It is refreshing to get such a reasonable and sensitive perspective from someone who might otherwise be accused to shrugging his shoulders at the worst results of creative destruction and muttering, “Well, that’s the price of progress.”While I agree with Wright that “To stop technical progress is to reserve a place in the dustbin of history,” I think his book (and others by similar thinkers) lacks a serious discussion about human quality of life (196). Wright has much to say about grand historical trends, global brains, and ways that technical innovation has generated win-win relationships, but he’s surprisingly mute when it comes to human fulfillment or flourishing. And while it’s true that “Literature is nice, but putting food on the table is nicer,” I balk a bit at his attitude that art doesn’t play a significant role in human progress (145). In all its forms, art is crucial for human self-expression and -actualization, and is also our primary means of encapsulating the richness of human experience to share it with others. I’ll concede that I don’t starve because of technology, but only if I can also insist that my heart soars because of art. My desire to keep living would decline drastically if I were wrenched away from the plethora of narratives (real and fictional) I explore in solitude and with loved ones. That which makes life possible doesn’t always make it meaningful.This brings us to Wright’s final blunder, which is really a pair of blunders. The first is Wright’s bizarre characterization of consciousness through a woefully inapt thought experiment. Wright asks the reader to imagine a world that seems just like ours, with people who look and act just as we do, only they have no consciousness (i.e. no internal experience of sensations, emotions, or reflections). “Such a world,” Wright contends, “would lack moral meaning…it would offer no context in which words such as ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ made sense” (321). This is nonsense. As with many thought experiments, such a world is completely incompatible with what we know about how intelligent organisms are structured. Consciousness is a gradient––animals have it, but to a lesser degree than humans, especially when it comes our big superpowers: symbol manipulation and future projection. Any creature that possesses a sufficiently complex system of bio-feedback loops and neural networks will have some form of consciousness; it’s a necessary tool that enables massive conglomerations of highly specialized cells to aggregate sense data and guide the “boat” away from rocky shores, which would ruin the game of life for everyone. So if you happened on a world in which people acted just as we do, with all our nuance, quirkiness, and pettiness, the only logical conclusion would be that those people were fully conscious. It’s the old “if it acts like a duck and quacks like a duck…” problem, and the same goes for humans. Wright’s “human-like zombies” give the impression that a brain could be fully functional without producing the experience of mind, which is impossible as far as we know.Wright’s determination to link a flawed understanding of consciousness with evolution’s directionality forces him into an awkward mysticism:That biological evolution has an arrow––the invention of more structurally and informationally complex forms of life––and that this arrow points toward meaning, isn’t, of course, proof of the existence of God. But it’s more suggestive of divinity than an alternative world would be: a world in which evolution had no direction, or a world with directional evolution but no consciousness. (323)Because he does not view consciousness as a necessary, emergent property of directional evolution, Wright jumps to the conclusion that consciousness’s existence is “suggestive of divinity.” But why? And what “meaning” does directional evolution point toward? Evolution’s directionality––to the extent that it exists––is just a fact of life, not some revelatory link to the world’s inherent meaning or some divine being’s intentions. Wright has forgotten to apply Occam’s Razor; instead of choosing the simpler explanation (consciousness is a natural property of sufficiently complex brains), he clings to a quasi-supernatural definition of consciousness: “Consciousness––the fact that it is like something to be alive––[is] a profound and possibly eternal mystery, and a suggestive one to say the least. And divinity isn’t the only thing it suggests” (331). To be fair, some scientists seem to think the jury is still out on whether or not the existence of consciousness implicates divinity or some other metaphysical force, but I’m not holding my breath.Wright’s second concluding blunder is the book’s strikingly misguided final flourish:In the end, this is the best argument for higher purpose: that the history of life on earth is too good a story not to have been written. But, whether or not you believe the story indeed has a cosmic author, one thing seems clear: it is our story. As its lead characters, we can’t escape its implications. (334)I can accept Wright’s softer arguments that a few of history’s broadest trends were “destined” (the rise of positive sum games among them), but I heartily reject the notion that our story was just too awesome “not to have been written.” This reads like the puerile musings of an aging autocrat who, looking back on his illustrious legacy (i.e. decades of tyranny), convinces himself that it just couldn’t have happened any other way. This is arrogance of cosmic proportions, with meaning written in the stars and deciphered by clever astronomers, Wright’s “lead characters.”Why spring for cheap romanticism when truly stirring notions are close at hand? Instead of portraying nonzero thinking as a special key to understanding the universe’s underlying purpose, why not bask in the glory of being the only existing creature (as far as we know) capable of creating thought systems of complexity and scope, of using everything at our disposal, from biological gifts to technological marvels, to generate ideas and stories that reconstruct the past, throw perspective on the present, and grasp at a better future?Wright hasn’t exposed the true meaning hidden under the universe’s insouciant guise, but he has created a thought-provoking and worthwhile book. In the end, the importance of positive sum thinking for solving modern problems is enough to forgive Wright’s unjustified extravagance. Having paid a few dollars for the experience of reading Nonzero, I think reader and writer both came out on top.This review was originally published on my blog, words&dirt.

Maha

Re-read this as part of my August project to go back through old favorites and also as a refresher before tackling Wright's new book. But, having re-read Nonzero, I'm now not sure I want to tackle the new book (Evolution of God) at all (I bought it and skimmed the opening bits).Wright's basic thesis, which he's been hammering over several books and many articles for years, is a combination of evolutionary psychology and the economics of game theory. Evolution leads us to do whatever is in our self-interest re: survival. Game theory shows that sometimes incentives are set up that make one man's win another man's loss (zero sum) and at other times both parties have to win or they both lose (non zero sum). Wright posits that the sociological outcome of evolution--more complexity in human life and relationships--leads to more nonzero than zero sum situations and therefore to less brutal competition and more collaboration. In other words, he's trying to inject some moral value and purpose into the trajectory of evolution, building a bridge between science and religion, and taking the debate away from the Hobbesian nature state vision advanced by Richard Dawkins and other New Atheist types. This is where his new book fits in: it's all about how religion is a way we justify/explain to ourselves whatever evolution makes us do, but since evolution makes us more collaborative, not more outright competitive over time, religion must become more tolerant/less doctrinaire. That means it's his version of evolution not the New Atheist version that best explains the dwindling influence of fundamentalist religion in highly complex/developed societies.When I first read Wright, as a college undergrad trying to work through my own religious beliefs while engaged in studies of critical reasoning, this was the piece I found most compelling--the links he was making between rationality and spirituality.Now, however, that I'm primarily concerned with current events, what I find most compelling is the piece of his argument that gives liberals--and Wright is one--a place within the modern, globalized, market economy, by connecting self-interest to communal/cooperative gain. Not by mimicking the Friedman-esque rhetoric that everyone gains when we compete. Rather, Wright suggests that we gain as individuals from expanding global systems of interconnectivity (ex: the G20, the WTO). I'd like to see a progressive politics built on that idea, though I've no idea where or whom it would come from.In short, though I did take off a star for the cheesiness of Wright's prose, this is one of those great books whose wisdom actually expands each time you read it.

Jjohnson The Delicatemonster

In game theory-speak, at its most basic level, Wright's asserts that human interactions are positive-sum: there are gains from cooperation. In Wright's view, complexity=progess. Wright sees inventions such as agriculture as inevitable--not as a lucky accidents. To give you a sense of Wright's thought on this, consider Mars and an Ameoba, Wright would argue that inevitably man or something very like man would develop.Societies that are more powerful--have better technologies, more effective social arrangements, greater population densities, and so forth--either swamp their neighbors or force their neighbors to copy them in order to maintain their autonomy. But why should organizational complexity equal progress? As Wright says himself: "...it would be hard to argue that there was net moral gain between the hunter-gatherer and ancient-state phases of cultural evolution. The Egyptians had slaves--which virtually no known hunter-gatherer societies had--and their soldiers returned from wars of conquest proudly brandishing the severed penises of their slain foes." So as J. Delong of Berkely notes: "In the end Wright is forced to play a game of three-card monte to reach conclusions that support his belief in Progress. The card labeled "complexity" must be switched for the card labeled "Progress" without our noticing." In Wright's favor here, he pretty much tells us this is what he's doing. It doesn't make his argument correct, but it's at least transparent. And yet, continuing along the same line, there is an obvious theological implication to Wright's thought, for if the end is not merely a tautological version of the means, then there may be a point to our existence after all. But even if non-zero-sumness broadly outlines a process with a purpose he notes "we are still a long way from Teilhard's de Chardin's worldview, complete with God and a happy ending." Yet, the old truism, the ultimate destiny of a poppy seed is to become a poppy becomes interesting if applied in a kind of meta way to the process of evolution itself. There are two things we can say with certainty about Wright's theory: 1) The arrow of evolution (biological as well as cultural) points toward greater complexity and information sharing. 2) Everything postulated by a traditional theory of evolution or our current state of science could have occurred without the subjective gift of consciousness. This last point is important precisely because consciousness can't be explained by traditional evolutionary theory. Regarding this oddity, the philospher David Chalmers writes: "It seems God could have created the world physically exactly like this one, atom for atom, but with no consciousness at all. And it would have worked just as well. But our universe isn't like that. Our universe has consciousness..." If we stick to the absolute bare bones of Darwinian theory, there is no reason for consciousness at all. According to modern behavioralist, consciousness lacks a true function. It is redundant, superflous. In short, consciousness is weird. A world without meaning, a world without sentience is exactly the type of world a strict behavioralist would have expected to exist based on all the modern tenants of the empirical sciences. And yet here we are. So if there is no strict scientific reason or necessity for consciousness, why do we even have it? Or, to reverse the question, is greater consciousness the end towards which the arrow of biological/cultural history points? Wright's answer is an implicit yes.

Kevin

The basic thesis is sound: communities that engage in non-zero sum exchanges will out compete communities that do not. As a result, the tendency over time will be towards increasingly complex societies that are increasingly able to benefit their members. The weakness I see is that it pre-supposes an open system where the failure of one society does not impact the success (or survival) of other societies. Up until recently, this has been the case, but with increasing proliferation of WMD's and globalization, the true number of competing organizational structures is declining and the external costs of failure (ie war/climate change etc) are increasing exponentially.In evolutionary terms, a catastrophic failure of one organism (society) could result in a technologic chain reaction that could wipe out the entire ecosystem. Whereas Romans reading the book could comfort themselves with a strong argument for the inexorable march towards a better future, I don't think we can be so sure.

Miklos

3.75This is an ambitious book by an ambitious author. Wright, who wrote The Moral Animal, a primer on evolutionary psychology (and a book I thoroughly enjoyed) attempts a from the ground up assessment of the relationship between biology and culture, from bacteria to whole countries, with topics like game theory, meme-gene co-evolution, group selection (although he doesn't mention it, he all but describes the taboo field), the purported directionality of both natural selection and cultural evolution and even dabbles in theology. For the most part, this book is provocative and his historical assessment of the development of culture from hunter gatherers to more sedentary civilizations to empires is certainly interesting and thought provoking. The only criticism I can imagine is that he appears to make the argument of the gradual development from simple to complex much too smooth and at moments hand waves the idea that its more complicated than that.He then delves into biology and the many parallels between biological and cultural evolution. No major problem here for me. I found it interesting and felt his arguments compelling. At some moment the topic turns from mere comparison to discussing group selection, global 'brains', and more speculation-friendly territories. Again, not that big of a deal concerning the guys tag line on the front of the book: "The logic of human destiny" (he was going to be ambitious, you have been warned). Towards the end of the book, he discusses theology in the context of a grand designer and the ultimate purpose of life. This is by far the most hand wavy portion, although I give him credit for being honest about it.Overall, this is a thought provoking book, but I don't blame other readers at times to have healthy skepticism (hell, even outright disagreement is good too). There are moments where the book takes strange detours and although he does link them up in the end, it can be hard to see the point initially. I do intend on reading more of Wrights work and was certainly happy to read this one, but I also can't claim I knew where he was going with this one.

Ken

For an educated layman like me, who spends very little time contemplating the evolution of either culture or biology, this book is highly intriguing and interesting. It’s clearly well-researched. Wright spends a lot of time quoting arguments from others, and that fact alone makes it a good introduction to anthropology and evolutionary theory, among other disciplines.In this age when “intelligent design” is a hot topic, it is interesting to read a view that allows for a designer but does not require it.

Avi Roy

This book exemplifies the unexacting/facile epistemological underpinning of social sciences as compared to the natural/hard sciences. Almost every hypothesis in this book is a "just so" story backed by non-falsifiable/cherry-picked historical data, and masked (ever so slightly) in the technicality of game theory. I do understand that it is hard to run an empirical experiment on history, but neither should we rely on it for high probability future outcome. The author does have some interesting wisps of an idea here and there scattered around the book, but these are generally lost in the tiresome monologue. I do agree with the authors conclusion regarding the amplification of non-zero sum interactions (co-operation) without the requirement of zero-sum threats (war), but I would have derived this via examples of evolutionary molecular and macro-molecular dynamics. In the last few chapters, the author does indeed invoke natural science and evolution towards elucidating his conjecture, but these chapters overall fall flat due to constantly comparing molecular events (flagella drive) with there "just so" macro counterpart (tribal relocation by chief). In summary, any half-witted university student (in discussions with his/her friends) should be able to reach all the same conclusion as the author, without having to read 450 pages.

Drjfkennedy

A great, well researched look at our destiny as a species from the point of view of game theory and evolutionary psychology.

Jan

Thought provoking (generally thoughts of 'how could this selective interpretation be taken seriously by a publisher). Couldn't finish it, after battling for 250 pages. Premise: world history basically follows a pattern that produces the best for everyone. The world also apparently stands 'at its moral zenith to date'. With 85% of the world without adequate food, shelter and security, whilst the other 15% spend money on gastric bands and diabetes operations? Apparently all workers receive a decent wage because of the wonders of human destiny. Where? Does the author mean he, his peers, family and students do? This Panglossian nonsense is all the more sickening for hypocritically (and explicitly) bashing other Panglossian nonsense. As for the 'facts' used to back up the theory, to take one small example: the Council of Europe led to 'a largely peaceful 19th century'...only because the nations faced each other off in third countries they owned as colonies, rather than on their own precious soil, numpty! Gah! The whole 357 pages was like this! The Mongol hordes were good for Eurasian culture due to a safer trade network...seriously? Authoritarian regimes aren't faring too well in the twenty first century, as history dictates that political freedom must expand...perhaps in your town, Wright, but much of the globe is covered by authoritarian regimes last I looked.In his thesis, that everyone in the world is playing a 'non-zero-sum game' through trade, culture, etc, he barely acknowledges that some people get a huge slice of the non-zero-sum pie, whilst others have to work for starvation wages. Fairly confident they have a less rosy view of 'the arrow of history' than Wright.Nb fair play for Wright at least saying what he thinks. Labelling whole interest groups as 'insane' (not tongue in cheek, either) is crass and wrong, but at least he has a proper opinion. To be clear, though, his opinion is wrong.

Share your thoughts

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *